STATE SOFTBALL NOTEBOOK: Future is now for city, community
Contract extension is just the beginning
With the ink still drying on a recently-announced five-year state softball contract extension between the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and the city of Fort Dodge, Lori Branderhorst will soon be able to turn her attention to both the short- and long-term agenda at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex.
The Fort Dodge Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director lauded the workers in and around the facility for their efforts as Year No. 51 winds down and planning begins for the immediate future.
“We’ve had a terrific week, which is a testament to the staff and the people who keep the tradition alive at the park,” Branderhorst said. “We value the little things so much, and it (collectively) makes a difference. I can’t thank them enough for the work they do, both before and during state week.
“I think what makes it work above all else, though, is the fact that we are never satisifed with where we stand. Our goal is always to grow and figure out ways we can improve as the tournament host. It’s about the personal touches and relationships we build and maintain. So I look at this five-year extension (through 2025) as a challenge to both the city and the community in general. What will we do over these next five years to keep this tournament in Fort Dodge for the long term?”
Branderhorst and IGHSAU Executive Director Jean Berger have “spent a lot of time discussing ideas and just talking about the future.”
“It’s important to always plan ahead and plan aggressively. I know Jean feels the same way about (the IGHSAU),” Branderhorst said. “We’ll have a master-plan update for (Rogers Sports Complex) next month, and at that point, we’ll ask the stakeholders what they would like to see moving forward. That obviously will include the IGHSAU and state softball, but it’s also about our local leaders and agencies who are (at the facility) year-round. We’ll pool together ideas, do a lot of listening, take that information and go from there.”
Branderhorst also thanked Iowa Central Community College for their “invaluable role” in annually housing nearly 30 teams on their campus.
“Iowa Central really is a critical deciding factor in the equation,” Branderhorst said.
She also pointed out the Fort Dodge Convention and Visitors Bureau’s drive to make state tournament week a special one.
“We have to separate ourselves in that way — not just at the park or through Iowa Central, but as a community-wide effort,” Branderhorst said. “What kind of experience are the teams having, not just when they play and where they stay, but in Fort Dodge as a whole? It’s healthy to always assess what we are doing and where we can improve, both individually and collectively.”
Branderhorst singled out Fort Dodge city clerk and finance director Jeff Nemmers, who is a “perfect example of a community member who truly cares about what’s going on out here during state week.”
“I see Jeff, talking to (IGHSAU) officials, helping people — just going the extra mile,” Branderhorst said. “Again, it’s those little things, the personal touches and the service that all add up at the end of the day. If we focus on what got us here — building relationships — and what will take us into the future, I’m confident that our role (as tournament host) will continue. And it’s a blessing.”
THE CREDITS: Branderhorst, grounds and turf superintendent Chad Graaf and maintenance technician Kody Linder log countless hours both before and during state tournament week, spearheading the effort to keep Fort Dodge city workers prepared for every situation.
Maintenance crew members Glenn Yenger, Tyler Winter, Ryan Zeka, Geoff Astor, Tyrnan Lara, Luke Williamson, Dave Rhodes, Mike Szalat, Jon Astor, Brett Thompson, Alex Read, Jake Wagner, Drew Callon, Matt McCrady, Seth Ramirez, Cal Hartman, Drayton Miller and Evan Pratt works the grounds for Linder and Graaf. Parks and facility maintenance supervisor Rich Peterson, recreation superintendent Hannah Angstrom, recreation supervisor Erin Habben and recreation technician Alexis Wolfe also play pivotal roles in the city rec process.
Berger, associate directors Craig Ihnen and Gary Ross, assistant directors Lisa Brinkmeyer and Jason Eslinger (also the softball administrator), program and art coordinator Heidi Reed, assistant Deb Robbins, business manager Sherry Tegtmeier, internal operations assistant Monte Wilson and the rest of the staff of workers, interns and volunteers serve as the IGHSAU backbone both this week and all year long.
Fort Dodge Parks and Recreation commission members are Michael Payne (chair), Mark Campbell, Josh Calvert, Mary Jo Kirby, Molly Schaeffer, Nik Moser and Tonia Burrell.
THE UMPIRES: Any school administrator would testify that finding quality officials in this day and age is no easy task.
As such, we should again take a moment to salute this summer’s state tournament umpires (in order of consecutive years working state softball at Rogers Park): Mark Amadeo of Urbandale (23), Roger Menke of Bonaparte (18), Gary Wax of Macedonia (16), Greg Buster of Muscatine (15), Karl Woolridge of Forest City (13), Paul Bird of Waukee (11), Mike Bell of Des Moines (10), Tom Sullivan of Osage (7), Tim Rogers of Tiffin (6), Troy Nicklaus of Griswold (5), Jodie Wielenga of Sioux Center (5), Tom Burger of West Branch (4), Travis Chizek of Ida Grove (4), Mike Christner of Oskaloosa (4), Arnie Krukow of Riceville (4), Brandt Lacey of Iowa Falls (4), Randy Morris of Waverly (4), Tony Nelson of Waukee (4), Dirk Sorensen of Ankeny (4), Steve Ebert of Cherokee (3), Daryl Erickson of Mason City (3), Deidra Mohr of Marshalltown (3), Jeff Niehaus of Edgewood (3), LaWayne Rogers of Altoona (3), Jeff Osborne of Clive (3), Ryne Christner of Marengo (2), Joe Havenhill of Urbandale (2), Jason Lewis of Monroe (2), Stan Schmidt of West Point (2), Raun Taylor of West Des Moines (2), and Tony Vandegriff of Fairfield (2), as well as Jerry Allison, Jerry Bowhay, Bob Camp, Brian Cole, Casey Conover, Jim Doyle, Al Hermsen, Jordan Hill, Bruce Keizer, Keith McCay, Mark Murphy, Glen Snyder, Mike Watkins and Rusty Wintermote.
BEST OF THE BEST: 2021 Softball Hall of Fame inductees include Melody Cook, Lisa McNeeley, Hailey Sweet and Ashley Vanderloo. Jane Becker of Don Bosco received the Golden Plaque of Distinction on Thursday. Cedar Rapids Kennedy graduate Kaylin Kinney is the Jack North Softball Award winner.
Humboldt’s Ellie Jacobson heads the list 100-game pitching winners being recognized, alongside Abby Flannigan of North Linn, Kori Wedeking of Clarksville, Mikayla Houge of Collins-Maxwell and Jena Lawrence of Albia.
Joanne Bracker is receiving the IGHSAU’s First Lady award.
Sally Musselman and Kortney Riley of South Central Calhoun made softball’s academic all-state team for 2021.
Fort Dodge’s Tristin Doster, Humboldt’s Kendal Clark and Ella Larsen of Newell-Fonda will all compete in the IGCA all-star softball games on Saturday in Waukee.